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Microsoft Delivered a Ton of GA Releases at Ignite: Here They Are

A slew of products and technologies are advancing into the general availability (GA) stage this week at Microsoft Ignite, including the latest version of Windows Server, strategic Internet of Things (IoT) offerings and a number of Azure services and features.

Kicking off its flagship IT conference Monday morning with a keynote by CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft released details on more than a dozen major products, services and frameworks. While Microsoft's product cycle has kept pace with industry trends to become more fluid in recent years, GA is still a key milestone that signals a product will be fully supported in production environments.

Windows Server 2019
Headlining the announcements of products reaching GA at Ignite is Windows Server 2019. The direction for Microsoft is clearly to the cloud, and the company ceaselessly encourages customers to move workloads to the Azure public cloud or to purpose-built cloud applications, such as Office 365 or Dynamics 365. Yet, Microsoft has carved a competitive niche for itself in the cloud out of its hybrid capabilities, and promises to continue to make and support software that runs on-premises for a while longer.

In strict terms, what Microsoft is announcing for Windows Server 2019 is an October GA, making real availability at least a week off. In technical terms, Windows Server 2019 is a Long-Term Servicing Channel release. That means it is compiled to include features from previous Semi-Annual Channel release versions 1709 and 1803, and that it will have five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support.

A simultaneous Semi-Annual Channel release of Windows Server, version 1809, will also be made available. Microsoft is emphasizing a focus in that version on containers and micro-services.

Internet of Things
One of Microsoft's most significant IoT initiatives also hit GA during Ignite. Azure IoT Central is intended to democratize IoT by making it accessible to users and organizations that don't want to set up the back-end infrastructure or perform the integration necessary to support and leverage an army of sensors and other devices in the field.

The solution differs from other Azure IoT solutions in that it is a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering rather than a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. Companies subscribe to Azure IoT Central on a per user per month model. The service gives each device a unique security key, provides device libraries, supports common connectivity protocols, scales to millions of connected devices or millions of events per second, and offers time-series storage. The technology had been in public preview since December.

A more tactical GA release this week in the IoT arena is new capabilities in the Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service. Overall, that service allows customers to provision, register and scale IoT devices. The new capabilities will deliver more control to customers over their IoT solutions through the ability to reprovision devices from one IoT solution to another and through enrollment-level allocation rules.

Major Azure Services
Three major services that change the product mix for the Azure public cloud reached GA at Ignite.

Microsoft is throwing its hat in the firewall-as-a-service ring with Azure Firewall. Hitting GA after a three-month public preview phase, Azure Firewall brings native security controls to the Microsoft public cloud. Microsoft describes it as "a managed, cloud native network security service to protect application resources with built-in high availability and unrestricted cloud scalability." The security control includes central administration and logging across subscriptions and virtual networks.

Another major Azure service reaching GA after a short public preview is Azure Virtual WAN. The cloud networking service is designed to allow organizations to provide branch-to-branch connectivity through Azure in an optimized and automated way. Customers can configure branch devices manually to connect to Azure Virtual WAN, or they can work with partners who automate the process. Microsoft lists a number of preferred partners already, including Barracuda Networks, Check Point, Citrix, NetFoundry, Palo Alto Networks, Riverbed Technology and 128 Technology.

Monitoring Azure services is an evolving task with an ever-broadening scope, and Microsoft made a number of enhancements GA to Azure Monitor. With the changes, Azure Monitor becomes the central location for monitoring infrastructure, apps and networks on Azure. The main change is integrating Azure Log Analytics and Azure Application Insights into Azure Monitor as features, rather than as separate services. While maintaining the full functionality of those deep application monitoring and deep infrastructure monitoring tools, Microsoft is making them available from within the Monitor interface.

Other Azure Enhancements
Eight other significant Azure services and features also hit the GA stage at Ignite.

  • A new Speech Service takes improved versions of several of Microsoft's AI speech capabilities and combines them into a single service. Included are speech recognition, speech translation capabilities and customization capabilities to create a unique voice.
  • A version 4 SDK for the Bot Framework, with ease-of-use and pick-and-choose enhancements to make it faster and simpler for first-time bot creators.
  • The Azure Cosmos DB has three significant updates that are GA -- multi-master support for high-availability and lower latency, the Cassandra API that makes Cosmos DB multi-model and multi-API, and the Reserved Capacity subscription option.
  • The size limit for Azure Files shares is being expanded dramatically from 5TB to 100TB, a move Microsoft positions as enabling more flexible migrations of on-premises data files to the cloud.
  • Azure Maps are updated with an improved Map Control API, which adds enhancements related to data layering, visualization, HTML-based icons and a new spatial math library.
  • The Azure Standard SSD Managed Disks offering will give customers running Web servers and lightly used servers better performance with this SSD (Solid State Drives) offering than they would get from Azure's offerings featuring Hard Disk Drives (HDD).
  • The Azure Serial Console is a tool to help developers and system administrators conduct self-service diagnosis and troubleshooting on virtual machines even when the VM is unreachable.
  • The Azure SignalR Service builds on the SignalR ASP.NET library for adding real-time functionality, like chat or stock tickers, to Web applications by providing a back-end service that handles tasks like capacity provisioning, scaling and persistent connections.

Posted by Scott Bekker on 09/24/2018 at 2:39 PM


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